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Premium Economy Flight Deals from Canada – tripcentral.ca™

Premium Economy varies greatly by airline & aircraft!

Not all Premium Economy offerings are the same, which can make it difficult to compare price wise between different airlines. It’s why we’ve created this special page on tripcentral.ca to help you make an informed choice.

What we call “true” Premium Economy, involves a separate cabin on a wide body aircraft with a 2 x 4 x 2 seat configuration and two aisles.  Seats in this configuration are slightly wider (1-2 inches – big difference though) than a normal economy seat with additional lumbar support and cushion.  This slight difference in width, and more importantly, the state-of-the-art design, makes the true premium seat more comfortable than regular economy.  This type of seat offers 6-8 inches of additional legroom and greater recline, with the recline interfering less with the enjoyment of the passenger behind you.  If you see in the description that it includes a separate cabin for Premium, this is the “true” Premium Economy.

 “True” Premium Economy typically offers upgraded meals, which are often the same meals offered in business class.  Additional perks often include a priority check-in, 2 free standard checked bags, more overhead bin space, and priority boarding after business class on the same aircraft.

Airlines differ in size and target customer.  Large network airlines such as Air Canada, United, Delta, American and “flag carriers” from around the world (airlines of nationality like Lufthansa, Air France, KLM, LOT – airlines with country names and long-haul Asian airlines) often cater to business travellers as their core market.  These airlines will have a more substantial Premium Economy offering than smaller airlines that target more price sensitive leisure customers.  Along with the better seat and additional room, comes the upgraded meals, free alcoholic drinks and choices of wines, attentive service, and perks. 

Some leisure focused airlines, like Air Transat, offer an excellent Club Class that is comparable to Premium (or a bit better) on a network airline.   WestJet offers a decent Premium on their 737s and a Business and Premium on their 787 Dreamliner. The meals are good, there is a selection of wines, the alcoholic drinks are included, and the service is attentive. 

Low-cost carriers  may have some sort of comfort seating offer, but it lacks the plushness and service – this is typically only about legroom – and even that is questionable.  Often the regular economy on low-cost carriers is so tight that the even the “upgrades” are barely comparable to a regular economy on a network airline.  It is why search results on tripcentral.ca have aircraft descriptions hyperlinked on the detailed results and verified results.  These pages describe the specific aircraft for the operating airline, showing images and summarizing the benefits clearly. 

Economy vs Preferred or Comfort Economy Seating

On a smaller, single aisle aircraft, and even on larger ones, a more difficult to compare form of “comfort economy” or “economy plus” may exist.  These options are distinctly different and often well worth the extra cost of regular economy. 

Here you get the same economy seat but with additional legroom.  

Some airlines sell this as a separate fare level marketed as premium economy on domestic routes, and on others, it is simply sold as regular economy with a seat selection upgrade that can be purchased after ticket issuance.    On wide bodied aircraft with a separate Premium Economy cabin, preferred or comfort economy is sometimes still offered in economy.

Premium vs Business Class

Some leisure focused airlines like Air Canada Rouge and Air Transat offer a “business class” that is more akin to a Premium Economy, however, you may find these if you search “business class”.  Aircraft size makes a difference.  You may find Club Class on Air Transat more comparable to Premium Economy on Air France. 

Air Canada Rouge “business class” is less “plush”  than Air Canada mainline .  As a result, these may be found in Premium Economy searches, except for the fact that the Rouge Business class has a wider seat and Maple Leaf Lounge access –  but it’s not the lie flat pod found on the newer aircraft.  If you are considering Premium Economy, it’s always worth a try to repeat the search for business class and compare.  A sold-out lower fare in Premium could be more expensive than an available discounted business on another airline or itinerary.  You never know.  

How Should You Compare Premium Economy Results?

Flight pricing defies logic on the best day.  It is based entirely on supply and demand.  Demand is always higher for direct flights, and airlines operating direct flights will demand a premium price versus a connection.

Aircraft type partially determines supply.  You may see a few wide-body flight choices mixed in with mostly single aisle choices for transcontinental routes.  You may even see wide-body aircraft at certain hours on shorter routes like Toronto – Montreal, where aircraft are repositioning to and from Europe.  The number of seats sold on a specific flight can cause vast differences in fare for Premium Economy.  If the flight is selling well, you may find the direct flight on certain days much more expensive if the lower premium fares are already  sold out.  This is because there are so few Premium Economy seats on the aircraft and not all are sold at low prices.

Booking further in advance is critical and having the flexibility to consider alternative dates may also make a big difference.

The tripcentral.ca flight search returns results in a sort order that accounts for price comparisons between direct and connecting flights, but you will need to look at the itinerary detail for the aircraft type and description.  You can see this by choosing “Details” or clicking the Book button to verify the results .  The aircraft type is linked and contains a description of the aircraft for the operating airline.  This can get confusing when airlines “code share” between partners.  An Air Canada flight number can be operated for example, by any Star Alliance carrier including United, Lufthansa, Austria, LOT – just to name a few.  Obviously, the inflight experience is of the operating airline, not the marketed airline.  Our search results account for this as well.

Partial Premium Economy Itineraries

Many of our competitor sites will offer mixed results of economy and premium economy, and obviously, at first blush, these look cheaper.  Their price may be deceiving however, as some (or almost all) of a multi-flight itinerary could be in regular economy with only one flight segment in Premium Economy.

For itineraries from the larger international airports in Canada (Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal), we restrict the first search so that the results must be entirely in Premium Economy, or you will see no results at all.  You can repeat the search to relax this constraint and allow results with partial premium economy if you choose.  This can be useful for example, to include itinerary options such as a regular economy connector flight to New York or another major US hub, and a connection in Premium thereafter to your destination.  All smaller gateways in Canada will automatically allow a mix of economy and Premium (or there would be no results at all) but you will need to look more carefully at each flight segment to compare.  A good tip-off is when you see “2 Free Bags” – this indicates that a true Premium Economy fare is included.

One Way Fares in Premium Economy?

It can also be worth quoting your flight itinerary in two one-way segments-but this does vary by route.  Most international routes only offer good fares as round trip.  More and more markets, depending on competition from other airlines, are increasingly offering discounted advance purchase one-way fares.  It is unlikely that two one-way Premium Economy fares will be cheaper than a round trip for the same flights, however, if you find prices high, try searching as two one ways for a combination of classes.  You may find Premium outbound and regular economy return a better option than entirely Premium vs entirely Economy for your needs.  This can especially be true on overnight flights – better to have more recline going over to Europe or returning on a “Red Eye” than not.  Regular economy can be less valued on flights occurring entirely in daylight hours – but demand also follows. If the price is high, try it as two one ways for comparison.

Aircraft are Subject to Change!

This is the dirty secret no one wants to talk about.  Especially on high frequency domestic routes, aircraft can be swapped as operational needs unfold – including weather and delays of incoming aircraft.  You need to “roll with the punches” if this happens.

It also means that “it matters where you book”- tripcentral.ca will help you free of charge if the airline imposes a schedule change in advance.  This involuntary change will come with assistance from our team working here in Canada – not an understaffed call centre somewhere abroad.  If you are subjected to a schedule change in advance, we’ll spare you the hours on hold with the airline call centre – and you’ll never know what terrible service you would have had with some of the other online sites.  

If it happens on the day of travel, you will need to work with the gate staff, but know that the Air Passenger Protection Regulations have fixed compensation for such events.  The airlines try and accommodate in these circumstances by offering alternatives and upgrades, but the scarcity of Premium Economy make excessive delays and aircraft changes more difficult.

It’s still very much worth booking it, but we want to point out that there is a small chance of an aircraft change, and we’ll do what we can to help with alternatives if it does occur, especially in advance, and for no extra fee when imposed by the airline.  Voluntary changes to your flight are subject to a rebooking or refund processing fee, but airline-imposed changes are not.  Most of our competitors charge for any change regardless of who initiates it.

Is Premium Economy Worth It?

Bigger and taller people place more value on seat pitch, seat size, and recline.  Everyone values premium service and comfort differently.  We can say that Premium Economy is scarce, needs to be booked well in advance and is under marketed.  Many do not know until they pass through the upgraded cabins upon boarding and have seat envy.  

When a cabin has 6 premium seats across versus 8 economy seats, and when the distance between the seats is greater (seat pitch), the airline needs to price the ticket at least as high as the lost seat revenue.  Then add the extra service, meals, drinks, check in, overhead cabin space which also increases the cost. – Deciding whether it’s worth it, can only be done by comparing it  to the best economy option and the best business class option.  Our role is to make that as easy as possible for you.

Remember to add up the FULL cost of your economy vs premium economy or preferred/comfort economy options.  Add the baggage fees and seat selection costs for the full cost, not just the basic price shown on the screen. Often the difference between basic fares and upgraded ones becomes a lot smaller when you add in these extra costs. 

Discounted Premium Economy fares are mostly non-refundable and allow changes for a fee.  On some routes, the fare is not entirely non-refundable, and the higher priced fares for the same seat will have more relaxed change and refund policies.   You can insure the cost of the ticket for covered risks, and a credit for the same passenger and value can be applied toward a new ticket .  There is a change fee to use this credit, a ticket re-issuance fee or refund processing fee from tripcentral.ca if the change is voluntary, and any fare difference from the old to the new fare will be required by the airline if it’s higher.  If the new fare ends up being lower, the airline does NOT issue a refund.  Since Premium Economy tickets cost more than most economy fares, re-using it for another Premium Economy flight or upgrade to Business is better than losing unused fare.

What about using Points for Premium Economy?

If you have many frequent flier points, it is always worth a look.  While we can do this for you, it involves giving us your username and password which is rather sensitive – you can do this and reset it after.  We do charge a higher fee for Aeroplan and other Points bookings if you want us to handle it for you.  The advantage is that we may be able to combine one-way segments or look at partial point redemptions in a more complicated itinerary.  We can also offer advice if the points value is worth the difference in price. Sometimes it’s a better value for you to cash them in for other rewards if we can find a cheaper flight.   We do collect the service fee up front for this service whether you decide to book or not – the research required is quite labour intensive for us to do. 

What about Upgrading to Premium Economy at Check In?

It can happen that there are open seats, especially on these shorter haul domestic routes, or when a large aircraft was re-assigned at the last minute to another route due to weather, incoming delays, etc.  It’s always worth a look, but you cannot count on this.  Most Premium Economy is booked well in advance, and when there are one or two seats left at check-in, they often charge MORE for the upgrade than the original fare.  This is contextual pricing.  Scarcity and desire (lined up customers, frequent fliers with upgrade coupons or points) turn this into an auction not unlike the housing market these days.  

Bottom line – if you are booked in economy, it’s always good to check the Upgrade screen on check in.   More often than not, you’ll find it quite expensive for a one-way upgrade.  A crowded airport can suddenly change people’s value of a better seat!  It’s not even too late to ask on board.  Some airlines will allow passengers to upgrade for a fee after boarding with the credit card terminal in hand.  Others are not equipped to do this at all, and do not permit it.  It can even vary by aircraft type. 

Does Premium Economy include Lounge Access?

Typically, where a business class is also offered on the same aircraft, complimentary airline lounge access is not included for free and may not even be offered for a fee.  It varies.  There are networks of private lounges in airports worldwide, including Plaza Premium in Canada.  Priority Pass is a network offered through some premium credit cards as a perk that will give a limited number of free entries into lounges worldwide.  If you like to travel in Premium Economy and will be taking a few trips a year, it’s worth looking at credit cards that include Priority Pass.

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